Iraq News
Human Rights

Post-ISIS, Iraqi families seek information on missing

By Khalid al-Taie

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The family of a Yazidi girl who was abducted embrace her after she was rescued from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria', in this photograph posted online on October 9th. [Photo from the Facebook page of the director of the Office of Yazidi Abductees' Affairs]

Sorrow has cast a shadow over the face of 30-year-old Laith Majeed since his older brother was abducted by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

Two years ago, Majeed told Diyaruna, ISIS elements abducted his brother, Mazen -- a father of four -- from his home in Mosul's Somer neighbourhood.

"My brother was a former police officer who was abducted by ISIS as part of the terrorist group’s targeting of security officials," he said, explaining that they were rounded up from several neighbourhoods and placed in secret prisons.

ISIS was suspicious of these individuals, he said, as it suspected they were sharing intelligence about its movements and locations with Iraqi forces.

Majeed said he still does not know "what happened to my brother, whether he is alive or dead".

"If he is dead, where are his remains?" he added.

Thousands of missing persons

Ninawa officials are trying to determine the precise number of missing people. Estimates put the number at 15,000, most of whom were employed in the public and security sectors before ISIS entered Mosul in mid-2014.

But this is an estimate rather than a precise figure, Ninawa provincial council member Khalaf al-Hadidi told Diyaruna.

In mid-January, the local council began a serious effort to create an accurate database of all the missing persons to help move the investigations forward.

"We have created a form that includes questions on the identity of the missing persons, the day they went missing and lots of other information about them," he said. "Thousands of copies have been printed and handed out to the public and in displacement camps."

During the first week of the campaign, the council received about 600 filled forms, he said.

"We will raise the first batch of names of missing persons to the Iraqi parliament so they can take the necessary steps to determine their fate," al-Hadidi said.

Yazidis abducted by ISIS

Since ISIS overran Sinjar on August 3rd, 2014, the Office of Yazidi Abductees' Affairs has registered the abductions of 6,417 Yazidis, half of whom are still missing, office director Hussain Qaidi told Diyaruna.

"Based on our latest figures, as of January 23rd, 3,250 Yazidis, most of whom are women and children, have been freed from ISIS," he said.

"Some were freed from parts of Syria, as the terrorists took them along when they fled the liberation battles in Iraqi cities," he said. "However, we have 3,167 missing persons that we know nothing about."

"We think they are now in parts of Syria that are still under ISIS control," he added. "We will continue to look for them and hope to find them alive so we can bring them back home."

Sheikh Awad Saeed al-Jughaifi, commander of the tribal forces in Haditha, said ISIS also detained many people from Anbar province.

"We have no accurate statistics on these victims," he told Diyaruna, adding that it is "undoubtedly a high number, according to the information we have from families, who still do not know anything about the fate of their loved ones".

Government work committees must be established to find all the missing persons and put an end to the suffering of their families, he said.

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